Prosecutors say high court ruling will make streets safer, but others expect more legal wrangling

On Thursday, the high court upheld the 60-day holds on people charged with serious crimes by criminal complaint.
Published: Nov. 18, 2022 at 4:23 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 18, 2022 at 5:59 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Prosecutors and law enforcement are breathing easier now that they can keep people charged with serious crimes in custody for up to 60 days.

But some expect even more legal challenges following a new state Supreme Court ruling.

Law enforcement officials say the state Supreme Court ruling in the DeAngelo case will make Oahu’s streets safer while others expect legal challenges in the federal courts.

New state Supreme Court ruling aims to keep felony defendants behind bars

On Thursday, the high court upheld the 60-day holds on people charged with serious crimes by criminal complaint, tossing Pearl City murder suspect Scott DeAngelo’s appeal.

The ruling addressed some of the chaos created by a previous high court ruling that required all serious felonies be heard by a grand jury.

“We would have had a crisis if it had gone the other way,” said city Prosecutor Steve Alm.

“We still have ... about 90 who are still in custody. Those are the ones who would be were most worried about getting released right now.”

Many of those Oahu inmates have been charged with serious crimes, including murder and attempted murder.

“It’s not like these people are first-time offenders or property-crime offenders ... These people are serious, violent offenders,” said retired Honolulu Police Deputy Chief John McCarthy.

“It’s definitely going to keep the public safe for at least for the next 60 days.”

But because their criminal complaints are being dismissed, some lawyers argue that holding suspects for up to 60 days is unconstitutional and that legal challenges in the federal courts may be warranted.

“If your case is dismissed without prejudice and the person is being held in custody to give time for the prosecutors to get their act together to get in front of a grand jury is inherently unfair,” said defense attorney Myles Breiner.

Other experts said the Supreme Court had a valid reason to require all cases involving serious felonies go before a grand jury.

“The reason why that’s important is because you want a neutral body of citizens who can look at what this prosecution is trying to do to another citizen and make sure one that has been done fairly and that there is probably cause,” said Ken Lawson, of the University of Hawaii Law School.

Given the backlog at the grand juries, prosecutors said they also plan to go to the state Legislature to pass a new law to give them more leeway to file felony charges.